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ERA Protect Review

Verdict

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A mix of the brilliant and slightly frustrating, the ERA Protect is easy to set up and simple to use for the most part. The option of adding professional monitoring takes it beyond what a lot of DIY alarm systems can do. A fiddly keypad and issues caused by an old Y-Cam account do frustrate slightly.

Pros

  • Simple-to-use app
  • Optional professional monitoring
  • Decent collection of sensors and cameras

Cons

  • Keypad fiddly to set up
  • Problems with Y-Cam account

Availability

  • UKRRP: £129

Key Features

  • Alarm typeThis is a DIY alarm that you fit yourself and can use for free, but you can pay to upgrade your subscription for professional monitoring

Introduction

For those who wanted a smart alarm system in the UK, the best option was the Y-Cam Protect. However, Y-Cam was bought by ERA, with the alarm system maintained for new customers but not developed, since a new product was in the works. That product is ERA Protect.

Similar in operation to the Y-Cam Protect, there’s a greater choice of alarm components here, support from a larger company, and the option of professional monitoring with police dispatch. It’s good to see a UK company take on the main US rivals, although this system is a little clunky in places.

Design and Installation

  • Quick to install
  • Good range of sensors and control systems
  • Optional cameras

As with all smart alarm systems, ERA Protect is available in a range of kits that include the base components and sensors you need to get started. Regardless of the kit you choose, the base setting has to include the ERA Protect hub, which acts as the brains of the alarm system as well as an indoor siren. This hub plugs into your home network via Ethernet, so you’ll need to position it somewhere close to your router.

ERA Protect base station

It’s then about the sensors you use. Window/door sensors (£29.99) cover your main entrance points, setting off the alarm when they detect that a window or door has been opened. These come in two parts: the sensor and the magnet. When the sensor and magnet are moved away from one another, the alarm knows a door or window has been opened.

ERA Protect door sensor

There’s an alternative Integrated Windows Sensor, which sits inside the profile of a double-glazed window, so protection can be had without having the sensor on display.

Next, there are motion sensors (£44.99). Thankfully, their pet-friendly, so won’t get set off as a result of motion from your furry friends. As with other systems, though, you’ll still need to install these sensors somewhere that they won’t pick up movement from pets jumping up on objects. For example, a cat on a table can set off a sensor. These motion sensors are a little on the expensive side, with the Ring Alarm option costing just £29.99.

ERA Protect motion sensor

All sensors can be screwed into place, or you can use the sticky tabs to position them where you want to.

That’s it for sensors, although this range covers all the main bases. There are also two security cameras – one indoor and one outdoor. You’ll need the internal security camera for professional monitoring, since it allows the security guards to check if anyone is in your house when an alarm is triggered, so they can dispatch the police accordingly.

For control, ERA Protect has two physical options beyond app control. First, there are keyfobs (£29.99), which fit onto a keychain. I’m a fan of these keyfobs since they’re generally the easiest way to turn an alarm on and off.

ERA Protect keyfob

You can also optionally install a wireless keypad (£39.99), which has the advantage that you can let guests use it without having to provide them with an expensive keyfob.

ERA Protect keypad

For alerts, you can buy both plug-in sirens for indoors (£39.99), and a battery-powered siren for outdoors (£69.99). It’s good to see that you can also buy a dummy siren (£34.99).

ERA Protect siren

Once the hub is installed, it has to be connected to the ERA Protect app. Since I had an old Y-Cam account, the system wouldn’t let me register with ERA. I had to get support involved to reset my old Y-Cam details. While this worked, the first time I logged in, the system kicked me straight out and said that I’d tried to log in too many times. A quick password reset resolved the issue.

Adding new devices to the system is easy: you simply scan the code on the back. However, there’s no confirmation that the connected device is actually working. I forgot to remove the battery tab for the motion sensor, but the app didn’t notify me.

Features

  • Fiddly to get Alexa working
  • Keypad can’t be controlled through app
  • Good monitoring options

At its most basic, ERA Protect works like any other smart alarm system. The app launches to a very simple screen that lets you quickly adjust your alarm system. You can arm, disarm or set the home mode.

ERA Protect app control

The latter is useful for those time you’re at home. From the app, it’s possible to set the sensors that won’t be active in this mode. For example, you may want to turn on all of the door and window sensors downstairs, but leave the upstairs sensors and any motion sensors alone. That way, you can go to bed with some security, but still have the flexibility to open a window.

ERA Protect app settings

A fourth button on the app is the “plus” button. This can be configured to either send an SMS alert or toggle your camera on or off. That’s quite handy, as you can quickly stop cameras from recording once you get home. You can trigger your alarm to arm and disarm automatically, too. What you can’t do is link your cameras to the alarm mode – say, turning them off when the alarm is disarmed, but keeping them on otherwise. It’s this type of integration that makes the Ring Alarm so powerful.

With the keyfobs, you get the same button layout and operation. I prefer to use the keyfobs, as it means that I don’t have to fish out my phone every time there’s an alert.

If you buy a keypad, there’s little that you can do from the app. Instead, you can programme a master PIN, and several unlock PINs via the keypad alone. This requires you to follow the instructions very carefully; I’d say it’s a little fiddly.

Likewise, if you want to register RFID tags with the keypad, you need to do this from the keypad itself. It would have been far easier if everything could have been managed from the app.

The keypad doesn’t provide much information. Open the app and it will tell you if your alarm has been armed or disarmed via the control panel, but not who did it. With the Ring Alarm, you can set different PINs for different people, all via the app, and it will tell you who performed an action.

Here, the keypad feels a bit like a relic from an older alarm system, and one that hasn’t quite been integrated into the system properly.

You can use the ERA Protect for free, with full internet control (something that SimpliSafe charges for). You can add additional subscription features into the mix. ERA Protect Plus (£9.99 a month or £99.99 a year) adds 4G backup, so you’ll still receive alerts if your internet goes down.

With this subscription, your hub can call your main contact, plus it sends a SMS alerts and push notifications. With 30 days of history for your cameras included, this bundle is similar to what you get with a Ring Protect Plus account, and it’s a similar price, too.

Upgrade to Ring Protect Plus (£19.99 a month or £199.99 per year) and you get full professional monitoring. This includes police dispatch, provided that your cameras have spotted an intruder. This latter option goes beyond what Ring offers in the UK, although rival services such as Abode offer a similar option. Professional monitoring is particularly useful if you’re going to be away from your home for a long period.

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant control are available, although I had some issues linking my account. As my password had two special characters (‘?’ and ‘#’), the back-end system wouldn’t recognise them, so I couldn’t link. Changing these characters fixed the issue, and ERA has said it will update its systems to allow these characters in future.

Once linked, you can use your voice to arm and disarm, although you have to set a voice PIN. In Alexa, the ERA Protect doesn’t appear as a device, so you can’t use its state to start an Alexa routine.

Performance

  • Can be a little flaky when arming
  • Quick to respond to alerts

Using the app or keyfob, the alarm is easy to arm or disarm. Using the keypad, I initially experienced a few issues where the keypad would disarm and then rearm the system. I believe it was down to interference during testing, but installing the keypad on the wall away from the hub fixed this problem. Nevertheless, using the keypad, the hub would often say ‘ERA Protect is armed’ several times during its arming phase.

Note that the ERA protect system will make you aware of any sensors that might be open and therefore not activated, but the alarm will continue to arm. As such, you can leave your home with a window open, but at least you’re warned about it.

The only time this system is frustrating is if you’re trying to arm the alarm with the front door open, since this disables the front door sensor. You have two options: you can stand inside, arm the system and then open and close the door; or you can go outside and use the keyfob or app once you’ve closed the front door.

Once the alarm is armed, I found that the system was quick to respond to sensors being set off, starting the countdown alarm in motion.

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Should you buy it?

If you want a smart alarm that’s easy to configure and offers professional monitoring, this one does the job.

If you want something cheaper, better integration with security cameras and keypads you can control from the app, look elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

The core part of the ERA Protect alarm system works very well with both the app and the keyfobs. It’s good to see a range of subscription options, running from free use up to professional monitoring. It’s in the smaller details that the system is found wanting: the keypad doesn’t feel as good as the rest of the system, and the account issues I experience because of my previous Y-Cam system proved plain frustrating.

I think that the Ring Alarm is a slightly more polished system, although it lacks keyfobs and professional monitoring, and the Abode system is slightly better for those who want professional monitoring.

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FAQs

What is professional monitoring with ERA Protect?

This optional service has your alarm monitored by a call centre, which can dispatch the police should someone be inside your home.

How is the Y-Cam Protect related to ERA Protect?

ERA bought Y-Cam, and still supports existing customers. ERA Protect is a new alarm system that offers a greater number of accessories and optional professional monitoring.

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